Emphasis HR continues to closely monitor COVID-19 as it develops through the CDC and World Health Organization, as well as our local authorities. For up to date information on this global event and our response, please view our COVID-19 Preparedness Blog.
What Your Business Should Know about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
EmphasisHR COVID-19 Preparedness
Telemedicine: An Option to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19
Emphasis HR’s Comprehensive Guide to Employee Engagement
June 2020

Is it a perk…or abenefit ?

Because HR is such a people-centered science, it’s sometimes hard to nail down precise meanings of terms. Take perks and benefits, for instance. They obviously have something in common, and for some employees, they may seem like interchangeable names for the same thing. But what an employer needs to know—and what emphasisHR explains to our clients—is the sometimes subtle but always important differences. While there is some gray area between them, perks are not benefits, and they don’t fulfill the same purpose.


Benefits are features of employment that supplement the employee’s salary. They have measurable cash-equivalent value attached to them. Benefits include such familiar elements as full or partial health insurance coverage, life insurance, disability insurance, transit assistance, tuition reimbursement, 401(k) plans and stock options. They speak to an employee’s big concerns over the long haul—their health, their family, their retirement and so forth.

For many employers, benefits are table stakes for recruitment—they get you into the game. How well you actually compete for talent often depends on how lavish or personalized your benefits are. It can also depend on what kind of perks you can layer on top of those benefits.


Perks comprise a broader group of workplace features that drive day-to-day culture. They play an important role not because they are more expensive or impressive than benefits, but because they play a more frequent role. An employee can go five years without using a health plan, but perks are something that can be part of every single workday.

Common perks include half-day Fridays for summer hours, ergonomic work stations, access to a company car, fun company events or a catered lunch room. While benefits focus on the big issues that affect an employee’s life, perks focus on immediate conditions that affect an employee’s day. Of course, there are as many potential perks as there are employers, and different industries will be drawn to unique combinations of perks that resonate with employees—at a reasonable cost,


That’s a trick question. The right answer is that modern employers need to make both part of their recruitment process. Benefits are the bedrock of the relationship because they are part of the employee’s compensation—and many employees would even prefer better benefits over getting a raise. Perks, likewise, are a necessary tool to increase worker productivity and, done correctly, can more than pay for themselves in greater output.

The challenge lies in knowing the right mix, establishing the right balance between what benefits and perks cost you, and what they gain you in productivity and better hiring and retention options. Keep in mind that employees see benefits as something they are owed as compensation, while they see perks as something that reminds them of their value to your company. emphas!sHR.com